The 300 million-year-old natural canvas of the MacDonnell Ranges is set to host Parrtjima – A Festival in Light from Friday.

Spectacular displays of artwork, light shows, workshops and performances will be presented over the free ten-day event, on from 11-20 September.

Held on Mparntwe (Alice Springs), which is connected to the estates of Mparntwe, Antalya and Irlpme, the annual event is the only authentic Aboriginal festival of its kind.

Merging the oldest culture on earth with the newest technology, styles and materials, the festival celebrates the evolution of First Nations artists while staying true to Country and culture.

The proudly First Nations-led festival speaks to the endurance and power of the Aboriginal arts sector and culture, as the event leads the nation’s arts and festival recovery since COVID-19.

Originally organised for April, Parrtjima will be the first major Australian arts festival held since the introduction of COVID-19 restrictions in March.

This year’s theme of ‘Lifting Our Spirits’ is fitting for an era of isolation, connectivity and health restrictions.

“It’s quite apt at the moment; it is about that kind of collective spirit needed now,” said Northern Territory Major Events Company’s Director of Engagement and Culture Paul Ah Chee (Ngala), in an interview with ArtsHub.

Water, the cosmos and Country are at the core of this year’s festival, with a captivating itinerary that includes the lighting of the MacDonnell Ranges, unique, large-scale sculptural desert installations, a series of conversations called Deep Listening with writers, academics and storytellers, as well as a national line-up of artists and performers.

Parrtjima 2020 hopes to lift the spirits from the work of artists—old and new—to the spirits of the audiences.

“We, as Aboriginal people, our connectivity to our being, our families and the land is an intrinsic part of our society—our stories, dances and songs—so Parrtjima will shine a light on who we are, and where we came from and where we are going,” said Ah Chee.

While tickets are free, attendees are required to pre-register due to COVID-19 protocols. Tickets guarantee entry into the Desert Park and Todd Mall precincts, but nightly capacities are limited to ensure there is enough space to roam.

Parrtjima’s organisers are monitoring the situation and making informed decisions based on current health advice from both the Australian and Northern Territory Governments.

By Imogen Kars